The final of the Chessable Masters started with Ding Liren giving 16-year-old Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa a tough test just hours after the talented youngster sat a real-life school exam.
The Chinese star showed exactly why he’s ranked world number 2 with a cool and classy display to take the first of two matches of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour’s first all-Asian final 2.5-1.5.
The second will be played tomorrow and, if needed, tiebreaks to decide who is the tournament winner.
Ding started the final perfectly as he reeled off a smooth win. For Pragg, it was hard to see where he went wrong. Just a cumulation of small mistakes was enough for Ding to take a 1-0 lead.
But Pragg came back hard in the second as two extra pawns in the endgame proved too much for his opponent. Ding resigned and had to sigh. Perhaps the boy wonder, who earlier in the day took an 11th grade end of year exam, wasn’t as tired as everyone expected?
Then Pragg, who beat World Champion Magnus Carlsen earlier in the event, crumbled again in the third as Ding went 2-1 up. Ding clinched the encounter by forcing through a pawn in the endgame. Finally, Ding steered the fourth game to a draw to see out the match-win.
Ding even managed to catch a fly why he was playing – much to the amusement of chess24 commentators Jan Gustafsson and Danny King.
Grandmaster David Howell said: “He’s the world no.2 for a reason, and he showed that in the last two games.”
However, there was no big celebration or show of relief after Ding’s win.
“It was a tough match, I’m very happy with my performance,” the 29-year-old said. “My strategy is to avoid any complicated lines and any long or forced lines!”
Giving an update on his school exam earlier in the day, Pragg said: “It went decent, it went well, I could say. Probably it shouldn’t be a problem. I guess I will pass!”
The pair will resume the final tomorrow with the teenager needing to win the second match to take the final to tiebreaks. Play starts at 18:00 CEST.
Replay the action in full here: